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Posted on: August 24, 2008 10:56 pm
Edited on: September 8, 2008 1:10 pm

NCAA 2008 Scorpionbites crystal balls say:

Welcome college football fans. The level of excitement this year is building into a crescendo, and we are all in store for one of the greatest seasons in college football history! The athletes across the board are bigger, faster, stronger than ever, and as these years Olympics taught us, world records are meant to be broken. The parity in college football is at its zenith. BCS conferences are no longer two teams and then the rest. Conferences like the SEC, The Big XII, The ACC, and The Big East all boast a minimum 3 teams that could play a BCS bowl game. The field is plush and rosy.

The following is given to you after months in the basement studying stacks of web pages, interviews, videos of players, backgrounds of coaches and their staff, discipline and injury losses, key gains in recruiting and of course losses to graduation. I hope my assessment can start some dialogue between college football fans everywhere. After this post are some facts you should know before you jump to any conclusions concerning my expertise.


The 2008 season, as I see it

1. Missouri Tigers. Gary Pinkel has built the foundation for a national championship caliber football team, and will be a contender in the Big XII North for years to come. Last year this team suffered 2 losses, both to Oklahoma. The only way they face Oklahoma this year is in the Big XII championship game, and I predict they will. The third times the charm and I love Missouri to not only win the Big XII but to win the national championship. The team is loaded with talent, has a Don James disciple for a head coach, a record setting offense with a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback in Chase Daniel surrounded by speedy gifted receivers and backs as well as a NFL caliber TE in Chase Coffman. Jeremy Macklin is ELECTRIC. The defense is also full of athletes with speed and hunger. They should also be one of the top defensive units in an altogether offensive powered conference. 2. The Ohio State Buckeyes. Jim Tressel wrote a book. In it are his thoughts on winning…in life. In my book this coach should be heard loud and clear. His teams are always well prepared, fundamentally sound and TALENTED. This Buckeye team is the most talented college team in the country. There defense is dominating. The Ohio State Buckeyes could easily win this game. They should. Sometimes life is about how well you handle your disappointments. If Tressel unlocks the puzzle to stopping the spread offense (run by Missouri I might add) his team may hoist the crystal ball in South Florida. Chris Wells may walk away with the Heisman Trophy. 

3. Oklahoma Sooners. Sam Bradford is the real deal, and dealing he will do behind that incredible offensive line. I expect most games this year Bradford’s jersey won’t see the dirt. Bob Stoops will have this Oklahoma squad in line for another Big XII South title, and if not for the Missouri Tigers, completing another Big XII championship and National Championship. The junior defections from the 2007 team no longer make Oklahoma THE team to beat in 2008. Just for you college football purists, I do want to address the X-Y-Z scenario should Oklahoma advance past Missouri. My answer to that is simple. The Ohio State players returned for their senior season. Enough said?

4. USC TROJANS. The Trojans are loaded on the defensive side of the ball, and I LOVE the play of Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing. Both are TOP TEN draft picks. Four All-Americans start on that defense and because of that will be in every game. The offensive side is also talented, but question marks may keep USC out of the BCS title game. 

5. BYU COUGARS. Bronco. Max Hall. Austin Collie. Unga. For all you naysayer’s out there, one must only look at the landscape of college football in the last 5 years to know that this is not a sexy pick. The Cougars are for real. Anyone remember 1984? The Mountain West Conference as a whole is WEAK. BYU should dance through unscathed with the firepower they have on both sides of the ball. Sexy would be having confidence that the BCS vote would not promote a one loss USC or Ohio State (September 13) over an undefeated BYU team. 

 6. Florida Gators. Urban Meyers influence is spreading like wildfire through college football. The NFL doesn’t know what to do about it. The spread offense, running quarterback, wide open style is being copied (the finest form of flattery) by programs every year. In 2008, surprises will take place in the SEC and all around college football as defenses struggle to come up with answers to this wide open style of play. Tim Tebow can repeat as Heisman Trophy winner. The road won’t be quite as easy this year, and it will take a victory over Auburn in the SEC championship game to propel these Gators into the BCS bowl picture.

7. Auburn Tigers. These are not your fathers’ Tigers. Expect some explosiveness from AU’s offense, behind new offensive coordinator Tony Franklin. Tommy Tuberville has the pulse of his team, and is a great communicator. They will be stout on the defensive side of the ball as well. The game October 23 at Morgantown should be full of fireworks, but I believe that Auburn wins that game, essentially knocking WVU out of any chance at the national championship. 

8. Wisconsin Badgers. The Badgers will be the center of some serious national championship debate IF they can get past Ohio State in Madison on October 4. Save your argument. The transfer quarterback Allan Evridge from K-State via Omaha will be a spark in that offense and that line is massive and will protect him. Wisconsin should be one of the top ten rushing teams in the country, always a plus, but must have to concede the Big Ten this year to The Ohio State University. 

9. Connecticut Huskies. I’ve not lost my mind. In a beauty contest full of not so beautiful contestants, this dog hunts. The Huskies have an entire complement of experienced players on both sides of the ball, easily the deepest team in the Big East. 

10. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. For those of you who don’t know who Paul Johnson is, I highly recommend you find out. The Yellow Jackets will be feared in the ACC in his tenure there. His teams will play sound fundamental football, running at you from all directions and playing lights out defense. The new coach will take the ACC by storm this year, and I’m taking them to win the conference and the automatic BCS bid that goes with it. 

11. Georgia Bulldogs. The populist pick is a very good football team. They have talent at the skill positions, play staunch defense, and ended last year with that swagger. While looking this team over, the accomplishments they made last year with a mediocre offense were attractive. The experience they could have gained by playing in the SEC championship game might have catapulted this team to the lofty expectations of many experts. I’m not sold. Too many questionable off AND on the field incidences gives me pause, and that offense doesn’t impress me. 

12. East Carolina Pirates. My first risky pick, in my opinion. Skip Holtz is a fabulous coach and gets the most of his talent. By taking his team on the road to face powerhouses out of conference, he’s raised the bar to new heights in Greenville. Now his Pirates start their 2008 season with consecutive home games against Virginia Tech and West Virginia. I love their chances of at least a split of these two; and if they win both, watch out. 

13. LSU Tigers. Les Miles has another talented squad and is quickly reloading. The road through the SEC this year will be bloody. If LSU can get to that October 25<sup>th</sup> game against UGA with only one conference loss, watch out. Frankly this year’s team looks more like field position, field goals, and punts. That won’t win the SEC. Give this team one year together, and watch out in 2009. 

14. Nebraska Cornhuskers. There is a sense of giddiness amongst Husker nation, and you can thank Tom Osborne for that. The hall of fame coach made resounding changes in the football program, and Nebraskans love him. As the athletic director, he hired last year’s offensive coordinator, Sean Watson, to continue his offensive mastery before bringing in Bo Pelini. And this offense is loaded. The offensive line is big, powerful and experienced. The skill position players have been in the system and flourished in it last year, making Nebraska a top 10 offense. Pelini will coach the defense, and with the athletes in Lincoln he will make a BIG impact. Marlon Lucky will post big numbers if he can stay healthy. Joe Ganz will pull the trigger. 

15. Utah Utes. The runner-up in the Mountain West conference might have one loss going into that showdown against BYU November 22 at home. If that happens, and I believe it will, Utah will earn this lofty ranking. 

16. Arizona Wildcats. Mike Stoops and Sonny Dykes must be salivating. Willie Tuitama to Mike Thomas and soph TE Ron Gronkowski will move the chains and score touchdowns. The defense will be strong and the punting chores capably handled by Keenyn Crier. With momentum, this team could be even more surprising. 

17. WVU Mountaineers. Pat White is a very skilled offensive weapon, and as he goes the offense goes. Noel Devine is an afterburner who also returns kicks. The defense will be strong and the Big East is in a down cycle. Looking at the career record of Bill Stewart, and some of the controversy surrounding his hiring, places me at ease that this is a fair season ending ranking. 

18. Clemson Tigers. Tommy Bowden will get the most out of this group, but my bet is he’s truly stressed about how his offense will perform with such a young, inexperienced offensive line. The ACC has plenty of teams with excellent talent, great coaching, and is upwardly mobile. Meaning the have nots are getting closer to the haves. I do expect Clemson to win a majority of their games, but I can see 3 losses this season. A win over Alabama in Death Valley to open the season is crucial. 

19. Texas Longhorns. Colt McCoy is a capable passer and Texas has the athletes. They also have more question marks than a typical Mack Brown team. Charles was a weapon that will be missed. A new defense will be introduced this year, but the offense isn’t capable of carrying this team to Texas standards. 

20. Tulsa Golden Hurricane. Tulsa comes into this year with their offense nearly intact, and that offense was sparkling last year. The top ranked offense, instituted by Head Coach Todd Graham, is a balanced spread attack that has (3) 1000 yard receivers returning from last year along with 1000 yard rusher Tarrion Adams. Fifth year senior David Johnson will be distributing the ball to multiple weapons. The balanced attack run by Tulsa is equally run/pass, making it difficult to defend. BTW, Graham is a RichRod disciple. 

21. Alabama Crimson Tide. Nick Saban won’t be happy with this result, but frankly Alabama is making strides in the SEC. He has shuffled the offensive line and now has three very talented big men on the left side. Terry Grant is blossoming as a running back and John Parker Wilson is very capable. Four road games and one neutral site against Clemson is a tall hurdle for Alabama, considering its Fayetteville, Athens, Knoxville and Baton Rouge. 

22.Texas Tech Red Raiders. Graham Harrell to Michael Crabtree. Last year the two teamed up for almost 2,000 receiving yards and 22 touchdowns. Brady to Moss prolificacy? Harrell has over 10,000 yards passing in two years. Both can be in New York if they continue their assault. Tech has a run of five games in their conference season where they can better this mark, or at least put themselves in a position to compete for the South crown of the Big XII.

23. South Florida Bulls. Matt Grothe will put this team on his back, and the fans of the bulls will come out in droves to watch this team play. And win. Jim Leavitt can coach. He took last year’s team into national championship contention, only to see it lost in conference in three close games. The infancy of this program means that Leavitt is putting pieces together to make South Florida a contender in their home state for star recruits, conference titles and dare we say…A National Championship? 

24. Arizona State Sun Devils. There are lots to like about Dennis Erickson and the job he did in 2007. Rudy Carpenter will be back for his final season, and if he gets sacked and pummeled like he did last year it may get ugly. I can’t consciously consider anything rosy for this team this year, but a winning season and a bowl game. 

25. South Carolina Gamecocks. Give Steve Spurrier credit. He has had to coach differently at USC and to date, he gets passing grades. Here we are, in the fourth season of his tenure there, and no one is talking about him. Or his team. Home games this year are Georgia, LSU, Tennessee, and Arkansas. Road games include Vandy, Ole Miss, Kentucky and Florida. If you want a true dark horse in the SEC, this one is it. 

Best of the rest: Kansas Jayhawks, Tennessee Volunteers, Oregon Ducks, Illinois Fighting Illini, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Wake Forest Demon Deacons.

Historical summary as it pertains to preseason rankings in comparison to final rankings for that season:

In 2003, the AP preseason poll included 11 of the 25 that didn’t make the final rankings. The overall #6 team that preseason, Auburn, received one first place vote. Auburn didn’t make the final top 25. Miami of Ohio finished 10<sup>th</sup> in the final poll out of the MAC conference.

In 2004, the AP preseason poll included 9 of the 25 that didn’t make the final rankings. Preseason ranked #17 Auburn finished undefeated and 2<sup>nd</sup> in the final rankings, and preseason ranked #20 Utah from the MWC received a BCS bid, finished the season undefeated and 4<sup>th</sup> in the final rankings.

In 2005, the AP preseason poll included 10 of the 25 that didn’t make the final rankings. Preseason #3 Tennessee, who also received 13 first place votes, and preseason #4 Michigan did not even make the final top 25. TCU from the MWC conference was in contention for a BCS bid.

In 2006, the AP preseason poll included 8 of the 25 that didn’t make the final rankings. #2 ranked Notre Dame received 10 first place votes, but finished 17<sup>th</sup>. Boise State received a BCS bid and upset Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, finishing the season #5 in the AP poll.

In 2007, the AP preseason poll included 11 of the 25 that didn’t make the final rankings. Hawaii received a BCS bid.

Lets have a blast in 08!


Posted on: August 24, 2008 1:53 am
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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com